I am busily creating works for an upcoming exhibit, Crossing Borders, in Little Rock, Arkansas. The exhibition has been curated by Susan Mumford of SMart, London and has been developed in association with Oxford American.
The exhibition is centered around identity in the American South, exemplified through the eyes of a few Southerners and some outsiders (artists from England). Stripping out many of the European art historical references and decorative pattering in much of my work, I am creating a series of gunpowder drawings that more directly reference the often permissible and glorified violence of the early Southwest.
(For a slightly more complete statement on this, please see my artist statement.)
So far I have 4 new works and will be creating another 3 or 4 in the next month.
On a more personal note: It feels strange to make a piece of art that does not have patterning or decorative elements. It is a good challenge for me.
Below is a Statement I wrote for the exhibit, which contains references that may not show up in the work I am creating for the exhibit.
Since a border is a typically an agreed upon boundary—possibly geographically demarcated but just as often arbitrary— they constitute areas of change. My work focuses, in part, upon the social codes of conduct derived from maintaining borders through reputation and the idealized Western romance associated with it.
In the South of America there is a pervasive need to maintain reputational status through reacting quickly and brutally when those borders are threatened. These disputes occur in Cultures of Honor (which is also the title of a book on the subject) where in the recent past the livelihood of a rancher and his family may depend on his reputation for enacting violent justice as a deterrent for possibly thievery. In such a culture weapons and violence are entwined with daily life.
After travelling to Europe a few times I became aware of a more culturally permissible way of handling of violence: gory paintings are displayed in ornate, gilded frames and brutal actions are captured in marble sculptures as cultural artifacts. From this framework of elevated culture I began to consider the culture of the South and the highly crafted, decoratively-engraved weaponry owned by many people. In beautifying the violent object the guns have been allow it to assume a glorified role as cultural signifier in society, crossing from pure utility into the realm of art.
Navigating between the beautification of weaponry and the seductive potential of violence I aim to comment on the dark, conflicted status of both.